5 Christmas Do’s and Dont’s

It’s that time of year. Matt and I are gearing up to make the long 11 hour trek back home to Arkansas. It’s been a long seven months since we’ve journeyed that far and I’m really excited to be back in that familiar place. As much as I’ve been preparing for Christmas with all the present buying, advent reading, trip planning, and party attending, I was reminded that I need to take a few minutes to prepare my heart to see my family.

This may seem strange, so let me preface by saying that I think I have the best family in the world and God has seen fit to let me marry into a wonderful family as well. But, it doesn’t matter how wonderful or godly or loving or caring your family is, there is always a potential for tension, arguments, hurt feelings, and resentment when you go home. I think back to my first Christmas three years ago after being married for all of 5 months. It’s like I went home and completely reverted back to my annoying, selfish, dramatic high school self. That didn’t make for an entirely pleasant break.

I’ve learned some things since then about myself and how to love my family well now that I’m a married adult living on my own. I know that my situation is not exactly like everyone else out there but I’m sure most people can relate to spending time with family over Christmas break. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up on and I pray they will continue to take root in my own heart as I prepare to go home this year.

  1. Get to know your family all over again. I do stay in touch with my family fairly regularly, but it’s different when you can’t always have those heart to heart talks in person. It’s good to sit down with parents, siblings, and grandparents and ask THEM what’s going on in THEIR world. So much of growing up had to do with me and my world. Now that I’ve grown and (hopefully) matured, I’m amazed at how much I can get to know my family as FRIENDS rather than “mom” or “dad” or that annoying little brother. (Who’s now a senior in college and has facial hair. Yikes!)
  2. When you are present with either side of the family- be all there. Don’t be looking at the clock or talking about what you will be doing with the other side in a day or two. Give undivided attention to those around you. Join in all the fun that is to be had without abandon. When you leave, you can then switch gears and the family that is left behind will feel like they received good quality time with you.
  3. Act like the adult you are. Don’t all of the sudden revert back to your old habits just because you are home. Let your family see you for who you are now. If there are old feelings of resentment for who you used to be, those feelings will start to die away once your family sees all that God has been doing in your life since you last met.
  4. Give them grace. Your family has missed you probably more than you will know. They will want to spend as much time with you as possible. When it feels overwhelming just remember that this probably won’t happen again for a while and in a few months you will be wishing you could grab lunch with Aunt Susie.
  5. Don’t talk bad about the other family. When you are with your parents, don’t talk bad about what so and so did on the in-law side and vice versa. This will only create tension where there doesn’t need to be any. Don’t bring up negative experiences or compare Christmas gift exchanges, or complain (or apologize) about having to leave and spend time with the other side.

Let me reiterate that I don’t have this all figured out and I’m sure to make mistakes. But I know that even spending a few minutes in prayer asking God to give me grace to love well and fully engage in the holidays with my family can go a long way. Let’s join in imitating the humble Christ-child who gave of himself so that others could know true joy, peace, and forgiveness found only in the good news of the gospel.


Proclaiming it Out Loud

Original_Marian-Parsons-Thanksgiving-Give-Thanks-Banner-Beauty1_s4x3So much to be thankful for. So very much. I look back over the last year, where we’ve come from, where we are headed from here. I’m bracing myself for this next year. It’s bound to be a doozey with fast paced changes and big decisions. But right now, I’m about to settle into my cozy apartment. Maybe turn on some music and begin to work on my cooking and baking for this year’s Thanksgiving festivities.

We didn’t go home. And yes, I feel a little sad without all that nostalgia and comfort. But we are creating new nostalgia and new memories right here in Louisville with our dear friends. It won’t always be like this so I’m cherishing the moments. It’s been a hefty semester. The kind where the husband is at our computer all nights of the week hashing away at a paper or slaving away on some 1000 page book. So I’ve busied myself with little things all the while waiting for it to end so we could go to bed at the same time. But God has been so good. We are in a rhythm. And before I know it, that rhythm will change. It always does. Still I soak in these days and nights and weeks.

I opened up my Bible last night and looked for Psalms and chapters that would turn my heart to thank my Lord. I opened to Psalsm 26:7- “Proclaiming your thanksgiving aloud and telling all your wondrous deeds.” Yes. And then Philippians 1:8- “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” I feel this for all the people God has put in my life and have shaped my life from near and far. And in verse 6- “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” In this I rest. Even with all the decisions coming our way, we can face them because he already has our plan mapped.

Tonight and tomorrow, I pause to reflect not in any way different than what I should do on a daily basis but specifically so that my gaze would be heavenward as we walk these next steps into the Christmas season and beyond.

And with that I proclaim it out loud and breathe a prayer of Eucharisteao. Thanksgiving.

Do the Next Thing

When you find yourself frozen with fear, plagued by insecurities, overwhelmed with life, or experiencing suffering, this poem is for you. The author is unknown, but it has been loved and used by many godly people through the years- Elisabeth Elliott being one of them. It’s one of her favorites and I often find myself quoting, “Do the next thing” in many different circumstances.

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration–”DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a question, many of fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee, “DO THE NEXT THING.”

– Author Unknown